When Worlds Collide -- REALLY Collide
Saturday, July 21st, 1990
Hill Valley NonTrilogy
For a long moment, there was dead silence inside the time train. Nobody dared move. Then, finally, J.C. broke the spell with a shriek. “UNHOLY SHIT!”
“What happened?! Where’d they go?!” Jennifer Ten demanded, eyes huge in her face. “Marty! Oh, God, Marty. . . .”
“It looks like they traveled through dimensions just before they hit,” Doc Four said, pale as a ghost. “I can see the shimmer. Though God knows where they ended up.”
“And how they ended up,” Allysin agreed, chewing on a finger. “What the hell did that bastard do?”
“Disengaged the hover conversion system,” Doc One said. “I don’t think he meant to, of course. . . .”
“Oh, God, what are we going to find once we go through?” Jennifer Three said, starting to tear up. “Do you think they might be – might be--”
“Don’t say it,” Doc Seven said, eyes closed tight.
“Only one way to find out,” Doc One said, though his voice trembled a little bit. “Hang on, everyone. We’re going through.” He turned the train around and began lowering themselves through the portal. The various groups clung to each other, frightened, upset, and desperately hoping what would greet them on the other side wasn’t a pile of corpses.
A few minutes later, the NonTrilogy universe was short its Doc and Marty once more.
Interestingly enough, it was their being tied up that saved them. While the other passengers bounced around on impact, the Martys stayed firmly put. There was a rather unpleasant shaking as the train hit the ground, of course, but that was about it. The boys stared at each other in shock. “What the hell just happened?” Marty Six finally said, shaking his head.
“You MORON!” Jack roared, stumbling to his feet. A rather nasty-looking bruise was developing on the side of his face. “What the hell were you thinking?!”
“I thought that was the lever that made us invisible!” Stanley cried, looking terrified. His glasses hung at an angle off his face, one lens cracked. “I didn’t know we’d just stop flying!”
“Butthead,” Biff muttered, getting to his feet with a wince. “I’m gonna be sore for a month. . . .”
“Anybody here seriously hurt?” Sandra said, rubbing her skull as she sat up. “Ouch.”
“We’re fine,” Marty Five couldn’t resist saying.
“Not for long, American scum,” Amina said, using her hair to pull herself back upright. “Soon you all are going to be kindling for the fire.”
“I’m afraid that’s a no-go, Amina,” Jack said, scowling deeper as he looked at the controls. “Our unorthodox landing appears to have damaged the equipment. We’re not going anywhere until it can be fixed. And while I could fix the DeLorean, a train. . . .” He glared at Stanley, who tried to sink into the floor.
Andrew came in from the back, looking fidgety. “What just happened? I heard a lot of screaming.”
“The idiot here just decided to send us on a one-way ticket back to the ground,” Biff snapped, looking over at him. “And now our equipment’s busted and – you kind of look different.”
“Oh?” Andrew looked down at himself. “I don’t think so.”
“You do! Not much, but. . . .” Biff trailed off. “I dunno. What do the rest of you think?”
“I don’t care,” Jack snapped, patting the side of his face lightly and wincing. “We have other, far more important problems to deal with. My brother and his various counterparts will be arriving soon, and without a working train, we’ve lost part of our advantage.”
“So what do you want to do?” Sandra asked, folding her arms.
“We can’t stay here,” Jack said, looking around. “We’re going to have to find a hiding place until I can figure out alternate arrangements.”
“Yeah, but – where are we?” Biff asked, going to the windows.
“Damned if I know!” Jack turned on the cowering Stanley. “I should carve you to pieces, you imbecile! Leave you as carrion for the vultures! Not that any self-respecting vulture would eat you!”
“I’m sorry,” Stanley whimpered. “I really didn’t know. . . .”
“You know nothing! No wonder I have such problems, I’m surrounded by total idiots!” Jack massaged his forehead. “Oh, it’s hard being at the top of the evolutionary ladder. . . .”
Amina put an arm around him. “Do you want me to teach our young ex-doktor a little lesson?” she offered, grinning maliciously. Stanley squeaked and crawled away a bit. “Perhaps see how much mischief he can get into with only one hand?”
“There’s a goddamn castle over there!” Biff suddenly yelled, distracting everyone.
“A castle! I swear to God! Come over here and see!”
The others crowded around him at the window – all except for Stanley, who stayed on the floor whimpering. Outside the train, looming fairly close, was a castle done in white and red, bordered by large hedges. “Holy crap,” Sandra said, looking surprised. “Where the hell did we land that has castles? Medieval times?”
“No, I know I had the time circuits still set for the 1980s,” Jack said, frowning in puzzlement. “And since we didn’t crash until after we passed through the portal. . . .”
Andrew was looking around the landscape, a confused, thoughtful expression on his face. “This almost feels like Arcadia,” he mumbled. “Not quite, but – almost.” He looked over at Marty Nine. “Your Mask has fallen too! I wonder what kind of land this is? It’s too open to be the Hedge. . . .”
“If this is some sort of fairy land, I don’t want any part of it,” Marty Nine said, sniffling a bit. “I just want to go home.”
“You and the rest of us,” Marty Three said.
“Quiet,” Jack commanded, turning away from the window. “Amina, Sandra, help me get these boys off the benches. Biff, get some rope and tie our dear friend Mr. Carlyle’s hands behind his back – I don’t want him touching anything from now on. Andrew, you go out and see how far it is to that castle and what the damage is to the train.”
“We’re actually going over there?” Biff said as he got a piece of rope.
“Do you know how large the average castle is? We should be able to hide ourselves very well in there. It’s just a matter of getting inside. As long as Mr. Carlyle--” he shot another glare at Stanley, who whimpered again “– keeps his mouth shut and his hands to himself, we shouldn’t have any problems there.”
Biff shrugged and grinned. “You’re the boss. I always kinda wanted to see what a castle looked like, anyway.”
“Hopefully then we can figure out where the hell we are, too,” Sandra said, pulling Marty Seven to his feet. “I don’t know what it is, but – something about this place seems familiar. Anyone else get that?” Glancing outside, she added, “You know, besides the creepy one?”
The others looked back at the window. “Yeah, you know, there is something kinda familiar about that castle,” Biff admitted. “Couldn’t tell you what, though.”
“We can figure it out later,” Jack said decisively, grabbing Marty Four. “For now, let’s get out of here.” He herded the Martys and his compatriots out of the ruined train. “All right, you lot – march. Any backtalk, I’ll make sure to spend an extra hour working you over. Understood?”
The Martys nodded. “Good. Glad to see something can penetrate those dim minds of yours. The same goes for you, Stanley – keep that mouth shut, or I’ll make you keep it shut.”
“Yes, sir,” Stanley said miserably.
Jack slapped him. “I mean always, Carlyle.” He looked around the group. “How about the rest of you, are you ready to go?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Sandra said, checking her weapons.
“Of course, darling,” Amina purred.
“Ready when you are, boss,” Biff said with a salute.
“Oh, I’m always ready,” Andrew grinned. “I can’t wait to see what’s different about this place.”
“Fine. Let’s go.” He started off towards the castle, the rest of the group herding the Martys along behind him.
It took them a while to reach the castle – although they quickly found a path to follow, it seemed to twist and turn in odd directions, as if it randomly changed its mind on occasion about where it wanted to go. And when they finally reached the front gates, they were confronted by a rather large hedge maze, decorated with numerous red roses. “Who puts a hedge maze in front of their castle?” Sandra demanded.
“Someone who apparently hates casual visitors,” Jack said. “I’m sure we can find our way through. And if not – well, I’m sure we can create an alternate path as necessary.”
“Oh, indeed!” Andrew said, snapping a few bits of greenery off the shrubs. “Though what I’m looking forward to is meeting some of the locals.”
“Let’s hope they’re smart enough to get out of our way,” Sandra muttered.
They walked for what felt like hours, getting lost twice and having to backtrack. Eventually, though, they reached the front doors. Jack eyed them – they were shaped like a giant heart. “Now what’s the point of that?” he muttered, knocking hard on them.
After a moment, one of the doors creaked open. A man, dressed for some reason as the Ten of Diamonds, said in a bored tone, “We’re only open Tuesdays and Thursdays, unless the month has an--”
The man stopped abruptly as he really saw the scene before him. “Now what’s all this then?”
“This is us seeking sanctuary, by any means possible,” Jack said simply, folding his arms. “Our vehicle crashed nearby, and we need a place to stay temporarily. We’re also all very well armed, so if you don’t let us in quietly. . . .”
The man frowned nervously at them, beads of sweat appearing on his brow. For some reason, his eyes kept flicking back to Biff. “I’ll have to talk to the Queen,” he said slowly. “She doesn’t like unexpected visitors.”
“Tell her to get used to things she doesn’t like,” Sandra snapped.
“That’s quite impossible, even for here.” The man turned to the side.
Jack suddenly felt the bottom drop out of his stomach. Something was seriously wrong here. The man – when he turned to the side – he didn’t have a side. He was – was flat. Almost as thin as a sheet of paper. As if – It hit him like a piano to the head. The man wasn’t dressed as a card.
He was a card.
Jack quickly turned to look at his companions. Biff, Sandra, Amina, and Stanley, along with the Martys, were all gaping. Only Andrew seemed unfazed. In fact, he seemed quite intrigued. “Oh, curiouser and curiouser! Now how does that work? I wonder what his internal organs are like. . . .”
“My what?” the man said, turning to face them again.
Before Andrew could respond, there was a sudden screech. “Who’s that at our door?! Who?! I didn’t want any visitors today! Off with their heads! OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!”
A somewhat portly woman came storming up, wearing a large golden crown and waving a heart-shaped fan. Jack wasn’t sure what he was stunned by more – her uncanny resemblance to Biff Tannen in drag, or her gaudy and yet weirdly familiar outfit. “Oh my God. . . .”
“The hell?!” Biff yelled, eyes about to fall out of his head from shock.
“Where are we?” Sandra demanded, absolutely stunned.
Jack looked from the Ten, to the Queen, to the castle, to the hedge maze, and back. For a moment, he was completely speechless. Then, slowly, he managed to splutter out one shocked, incredulous word –
“Well, at least the rumbling wasn’t so bad this time. . . .”
“There it is! There’s the other train! We’re right over it!”
“Oooh, it looks bad. . . .”
Doc One parked his train next to the wrecked one. He and the other Docs immediately headed out to survey the damage. The rest of the group waited inside, holding their breaths. “Well? Are they – you know?” J.C. finally called after the suspense got to be too much.
Doc Three looked back, looking rather relieved. “No, actually. There’s nobody inside, and no evidence of blood. And there’s a lot of cut, discarded rope on the floor. Seems like they all survived the crash and decided to evacuate the train. While this means Jack and his compatriots are still a threat, it also means the Martys are currently still alive.”
“I hate to call this good news, since it’s Three’s train, but the flux capacitor on here is also smashed,” Doc Six reported from his perch on the smokestack. “Which means he doesn’t have a time machine anymore.”
“Oh thank GOD,” Clara Six said, leaning heavily against the wall.
“So where do you think they went?” Mysteria asked.
“There’s a lot of trampled grass in this direction, leading to a path over here,” Doc Seven said. “I suspect that if we follow it, we stand a good chance of finding them.”
“Well, then, let’s go,” Allysin said, getting up from her seat in the back and making her way toward the door. “Something about this place is giving me the creeps.”
J.C. stopped suddenly, staring at Allysin’s head. Allysin noticed after a moment and turned around, frowning. “What?”
“Maybe this is a weird thing to get distracted by, but – how’d you do that with your hair?”
“Do what with my hair?”
“That rainbow effect! With the colors changing all the time! You don’t see that often even in our neck of the woods! It’s pretty awesome – oh, hey, your eyes are doing it too!”
Allysin went dead white. “Y-you can see that?” she whispered.
“Ye – something wrong?” J.C. asked, frowning. “I just thought it looked cool.”
“Shit!” Allysin spun around and darted outside, looking wildly about the landscape. “Oh God, please don’t let us be back there,” she said, voice strangled. “Not Arcadia. . . .”
“Wait a minute, Allysin, don’t panic!” Doc Nine said, following her out the door. “It’s not Faerie! I spent twenty years in that place – wherever we are, it doesn’t feel the same. It does feel odd, I’ll grant you, but it’s not the same sort of odd.”
Allysin calmed down a little, though she was still eying everything suspiciously. “Yeah, I can see that – but I still don’t like it,” she muttered. “Especially if it can remove our Masks like this. . . .”
“Masks? What are you talking about?” J.C. demanded. “I think your hair looks amazing!”
Allysin snorted. “Thanks, but considering what I had to go through to get it, I’d prefer plain blond like yours.”
“Changelings don’t always look entirely human,” Doc Nine explained. “We’ve got some sort of innate magic that makes us look ordinary. Apparently here, though, it doesn’t work.”
“That’s peculiar,” Clara Five noted, frowning.
“Fred, Victor, what do you make of--” J.C. started, then paused again, arching an eyebrow. “Okay, why are you two hiding in the shadows over there?”
“Because we’re some of the ones who don’t look entirely human,” Fred’s voice said.
“You can’t look any weirder than Doc Six or Clara Six.”
“Or look at me,” Clara Seven said, holding up her scarred hands.
“We’re not going to make fun of you or run screaming in horror,” Mystie said gently. “Come on out. We need all hands on deck.”
There was a pause. Then, slowly, Fred and Victor emerged from their darkened corner. Silence reigned as the group took in their appearances. Victor had somehow become both even paler and even thinner, looking almost like some sort of walking stick figure in a suit. He didn’t seem to have a speck of color in him – even his lips were greyish now. Fred, meanwhile, had a weirdly painted appearance, with sickly yellow-greenish skin and red eyes. His nose had grown into a large beak, and his arms were weirdly stubby, especially compared to his ultra-long legs. The pair tried to smile. “Hi.”
“. . .You need to eat something,” J.C. finally said, looking Victor over again.
Victor chuckled weakly. “To be fair, I was on the skinny side even before Rosie got her claws into me.”
“What happened to you two?” Jennifer Two asked, eyes wide.
“Arcadia,” Fred said simply. “Being the servant of a Fae isn’t easy. Everybody changes, even those who only spend a few minutes there.”
Josephine turned to look at Doc Nine. “Yes, but – Emmett here spent twenty years there, and he looks completely--”
There was a period of staring. “Was – was that steam??” Tommy finally asked, as his brothers chattered in astonishment.
Doc Nine nodded, suddenly looking rather weary. “Yes.”
“We never noticed steam before,” Jennifer Six said, tilting her head and studying him with wide eyes.
“The Mask covers that too. Mostly. I think Stanley managed to see an errant blast – that’s what startled him when we confronted Jack back in our home universe.”
“But – and I ask this knowing we probably won’t like the answer – why are you suddenly letting off steam?” J.C. asked.
Doc Nine looked at her for a moment. Then, slowly, he pulled off his coat.
Revealing large brass gears sticking out of his joints.
The other Docs’ jaws dropped. “What in the name of Sir Isaac H. Newton--” Doc Five whispered, eyes wide.
“What – what happened to you?” Clara Three demanded, looking like she wanted to touch him but holding herself back.
Doc Nine sighed. “I’m afraid I didn’t fully explain what happened to me in Arcadia,” he confessed, looking up at the others. “Andrew did kidnap me for my genius in inventing, yes, and he did keep me locked in his basement. What I failed to mention the first time is that he experimented extensively on me. Including replacing a good half of my skeleton with mechanical parts.” He flexed the fingers of one hand – a flash of light off his knuckles revealed little brass gears in those too. “He did other things to me, of course, but my operations are what I remember the most.”
“He – he built artificial limbs and then just stuck them in you?” Jennifer Four squeaked.
Doc Nine laughed suddenly, bitterly. “He build them? Andrew, for all his talk about science and wanting to know everything, has no more creative spark than your average lump of rock.” He grinned at her, revealing metal teeth. “I built them.”
“What the hell would make you build yourself metal hands? Ones that run off steam, no less?” J.C. demanded.
“Well, he tricked me the first time. Claimed it was some sort of personal project quirk he had, trying to replicate or improve upon modern technology with past parts. I had no idea what he planned to use it for until he drugged me – that’s one thing I’ll give him, he can mix up a decent chemical concoction – and I woke up on the operating table. After that – after that was my run through the Hedge. My only thoughts then were to work and keep him pleased.” Doc Nine scowled, looking disgusted with his past self.
“And I thought Victor’s story was hellish – uh, not that it isn’t,” J.C. hastily said, blushing as she looked over at the young man.
“Don’t apologize,” Victor said, holding up a hand. “We all know most of our stories pale in comparison to Doc’s. After all, he was there the longest of our little group.”
“Twenty years,” Doc Three confirmed, looking stunned as it hit him full force. “How did you stand it?”
“Well, for a good portion of the time, I didn’t know any better,” Doc said. “Even after I regained a bit of my memory, I didn’t remember my home or my family in any detail. I couldn’t picture a life outside of that horrible place. It wasn’t until Marty arrived that I even considered escaping. And that was really mostly for his sake, not mine.”
Jennifer Two glanced over at Jennifer Seven. “You don’t look particularly stunned by all this,” she noted with a frown.
“Well, it’s a bit more common in our world,” Jennifer Seven said. “People get replacement parts like that all the time.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen people with various bits of machinery attached to them quite a bit,” Doc Seven nodded. He glanced at his older, more mechanical self. “Though it’s quite a bit different when you’re looking at them on you. . . .”
Doc Nine gave him a half-intrigued, half-horrified look. “I guess it would be different in a world where most of the technology runs off steam or clockwork. . . . I just wonder how often such things are done to willing subjects.”
“I don’t know,” Doc Seven said. “I would never do such a thing to someone who didn’t volunteer – not that I would anyway, I’m terrible at surgery.”
“I wish I could say the majority – or even 50-50 – but it’s not likely,” Clara Seven added sadly.
“Yeah,” Jennifer Seven muttered, cracking her knuckles. “Probably leans towards those bastards who just shove mechanics in a person without even thinking about how she’ll feel about it.”
“What’s this she business?” Jennifer Six promptly said, arching an eyebrow.
Jennifer Seven blushed a little. “Uh – oh, hell, I might as well. I already told you my father was one of the bad Sparks in our world. . . .” She extended her fingers like claws. “I didn’t mention I was one of the test subjects.”
There was a sharp “shnik!” sound, and suddenly Jennifer Seven’s fingernails were long metallic claws. The other Jennifers gaped. “Holy crap! Dad did that?!” Jennifer Eight demanded.
Jennifer Seven nodded. “He called me Lady Deathstrike. I think the idea was that I was going to be some sort assassin or something for him. Luckily he didn’t try to put me under any mind control, so I never used them that way.” She examined them for a moment. “They’ve actually come in handy a few times for defending myself, but it rather hurts to push them out or pull them in.”
“I can imagine,” Jennifer Three said, wincing as the nails slid back into Jennifer Seven’s hands.
“Actually, you probably can’t. Be grateful for that.” Jennifer Seven looked at Doc Nine, sympathy in her large brown eyes. “Was it like that for you too? Waking up from the anesthetic only to find parts of you replaced with metal and gears?”
Doc Nine returned her sympathetic look, then gritted his teeth as more steam poured out his back. “Sort of. In my case, there was no anesthetic to wake up from.”
The color drained completely out of Jennifer Seven’s face. “What?” she squeaked.
“He – he operated on you – while you were awake?!” Doc Five said, his eyes looking like they were about to fall right out of his head.
“Yup. I’m not entirely certain Andrew knows what pain is. And even if he did, I doubt he’d knock out his patients. He wants to observe everything about the process – including our reactions during the surgery.” Doc Nine sighed, looking very old and tired all of a sudden. “I don’t recall much of them – just blinding pain and screaming until I was hoarse.”
“Holy shit,” Jennifer Four whispered, voice shaking.
“Wha – how much of you did he replace?” J.C. whispered.
“Quite a bit – both arms and legs, my lower jaw and all my teeth, my stomach, and my heart.”
“Your heart?” Doc Six repeated incredulously, tentacles chattering. “Wait a moment, he had to anesthetize you for that one. There’s no way he – could. . . .”
He trailed off in the face of Doc Nine’s steady gaze. Something about the look in the man’s eyes said it all. “How in the name of Sir Isaac H. Newton did you survive?” he whispered, the tentacles squeaking with shock.
“I don’t know,” Doc Nine admitted, shoulders slumping. “I nearly didn’t – that was the incident that brought back part of my memory. I have no idea how he managed to keep me alive. For the longest time, I wished he hadn’t.”
There was a grim silence for several seconds. “I’m so sorry,” Clara Five finally said, going to pat his shoulder. “That must have been horrible.”
“It was,” Doc Nine said baldly. “But thank you.”
“This is screwed up,” was Jennifer Two’s take on the subject. “Who the hell does that to a human being? And for what?”
“I imagine it’s easier when you’re not human yourself – and utterly sociopathic to boot,” Doc Nine said. “And it was all in the name of ‘scientific advancement,’ or so he’d say. Well, except for the jaw. That was half science, half revenge.”
Doc Nine smiled, looking both rather proud and rather crazy. “Marty’s Keeper was one of Andrew’s regular acquaintances. When Marty got sick thanks to that bastard constantly using stimulants on him, I finally got fed up with him and punched him in the mouth. Andrew apparently decided I needed a punishment equal to the crime and had me construct the jaw the very next day. This was after Carlos himself decided to slam me up against a wall and threaten me with never seeing Marty again. Marty wasn’t happy when he came over to visit after getting better and found me strapped to the operating table. He proceeded to get himself in trouble by threatening not to perform anymore if Andrew ever did that to me again.” He sighed, letting the smile drop. “We were both in pain for a while after that.”
Silence was becoming an old and familiar friend to the group by now. Finally, J.C. hissed through gritted teeth, “He’s dead. That fucker is dead.”
“My thoughts precisely,” Doc Seven growled, looking surprisingly dangerous. “Come on, let’s get moving before the trail gets too cold.”
“Right,” Doc One nodded, eyes narrowed. “Come on, everybody, we have some villains to catch. And hopefully we can figure out where the hell we are along the way.”
The Docs led the way down the path, followed closely by their compatriots. After a few minutes, it became clear that the trail they were following was a rather unusual one – it kept doubling back in on itself and going in strange directions. “Did the people who created this thing just not know where they were going?” J.C. asked after a few minutes.
“Who knows?” Doc Five responded. “At this point, I don’t think anything would shock me anymore.”
“Don’t say such things,” Clara Six said, rubbing her belly absently. “Every time we think we’ve seen the strangest thing we’ve ever seen, the next reality has something to top it.”
“I’d really like to see how this world can top us being fictional in some other reality,” Doc Four muttered. “Not to mention what happened to Nine. . . .”
“Even if it does have something to shock us, I think we’re prepared for just about anything at this point,” Doc Eight nodded. “At least, I know I am.”
“Don’t say that either, unless you want to be proven wrong,” Jennifer Three grumbled.
There was a sudden commotion in a clump of bushes nearby. The group paused, regarding them curiously. “Think that was the cue for something weird to happen?” Jennifer Six remarked.
“Probably – so what’s it going to throw at us?” Ally said, tapping her mallet against her leg.
They soon found out. “Now, where is that darn cat, she was just here – Oh! Hello!”
Everyone took a moment to process what they were seeing. Standing in front of them was yet another version of Clara. She looked mostly like the others (except for Clara Seven), except that she was clad in a Victorian-style yellow dress and apron. She gave the group a grin and a curtsy. “I didn’t know we were having company today. How are you all?”
“Confused and tired,” Doc One said, figuring honesty cost them nothing – this version of Clara would probably soon be involved anyway. “It’s been a long day for all of us.”
The new Clara frowned. “Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear that. What’s happened?”
“It’s a long story – can you answer a question for us first?” Doc Eight asked politely.
“Yes, though I suppose you want me to answer another one now.”
Doc Eight blinked. “What?”
“I’m also guessing that’s not the question you wanted to ask.”
“I think she’s screwing with you, Doc,” J.C. said with a giggle.
“I wouldn’t put it quite like that,” the new Clara said, giving J.C. a bit of a look.
“All right, getting straight to the point – where are we?” Doc Eight said, scowling a bit with frustration.
The new Clara smiled warmly. “Why, you’re in Wonderland.”
Silence made a encore appearance by popular demand. “You’re right, we shouldn’t have said those things,” Doc Five finally said, blinking.
“Wonderland?” Ally said, looking suddenly rather dangerous.
“Yes,” the new Clara nodded. “I don’t suppose any of you have seen it personally--”
Allysin suddenly lifted her mallet and pointed it at the new Clara. “Actually, I have – or, at least, what some sick bastard claimed was Wonderland,” she said, eyes narrowed. “You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t buy this immediately.”
The new Clara folded her arms. “There’s no need for that,” she scolded. “This is Wonderland, whether you think so or not – and does Vicky know you’re going around with her mallet? I’d think you were her if not for the hair.”
“Vicky? Who’s Vicky?”
New Clara’s expression turned to confusion. “Vicky. You must know who Vicky is, you wouldn’t be here without her.”
“None of us know a Vicky, I’m afraid,” Victor said politely.
New Clara turned to stare at him, now looking absolutely baffled. “But – but you must! Tie-Twister, she’s your--”
“Tie-Twister?” Victor repeated, blinking. “Why are you calling me that?”
“That’s your name! Tie-Twister. . .Victor?”
“My name is Victor, but I’ve never had the nickname Tie-Twister applied to me.”
“Gotta say, though, it does suit you,” Fred said with a grin.
“Why do you say that?”
Fred pointed. Victor looked down to see his hands wringing his tie. “I was, uh, j-just straightening it,” he claimed, quickly laying it flat.
“But this is ridiculous – and I don’t say that often!” New Clara said, waving her hands. “Vicky is – why, she’s standing right there!” She pointed at J.C.
J.C. stared back at her. “Er, my name’s Josephine,” she said slowly. “Josephine Caroline Jones. No Victoria in there at all.”
“But you look just – wait. Josephine Caroline Jones? J.C. Jones?”
“That’s what I usually go by, yeah.”
New Clara stared at her hard for a moment. Then she sighed and put a hand to her forehead. “But I’ve only heard about you – I never saw you for real,” she mumbled. “Oh dear, now I’m completely lost.”
“You’re not the only one,” Jennifer Six said. “What are you doing in Wonderland?”
“I live here.”
“In Wonderland?” Jennifer Four said incredulously. “What happened to Hill Valley?”
“Well, everyone from there is here in some form or another.” She looked around their puzzled faces. “You really haven’t the slightest idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
“Not a clue,” Jennifer Eight admitted.
“I’m still not convinced this is really Wonderland,” Allysin said, eyeing the landscape as if it was about to attack her.
“Need further proof, then?”
Everyone started at the new voice. New Clara was the first to regain her composure. “Well, look who decided to grace us with her presence. I’ve been looking all over for you, you know!”
“I didn’t know, actually,” the voice said. “Thank you for elucidating me.”
Tommy poked Doc Six in the shoulder. “Um, Father, I think she’s right in saying we’re in Wonderland,” he said, pointing to a nearby tree branch.
“Because we’ve seen cats without grins – but I think I just saw a grin without a cat.”
That got him to turn around. Sure enough, hanging in midair over the branch was a large, white, rather sharp-toothed grin. As he watched, a pair of brown, cat-like eyes appeared above it. “Goodness, I don’t think we’ve ever gotten this many visitors at once,” the voice continued, sounding ever so slightly smarmy. “They must be digging the rabbit holes very wide these days. Or making larger mirrors.”
The other Docs had located the source of the voice by this time too, and were staring at the grin. Doc Three furrowed his brow a bit, frowning. “Is it just me – or does that voice sound an awful lot like Lorraine?”
At that, the rest of the figure on the branch faded in. It was indeed a cat, though one with some rather human-like features. She lounged on the branch, continuing to grin at the dumbfounded group. “I don’t see why you lot are so surprised,” she commented. “You’ve had to put up with much stranger in your life, haven’t you?”
“. . . At this point, I’m honestly not sure,” Doc Eight said, shaking his head slowly.
“You’re – you’re the Cheshire Cat?” Jennifer Two asked, tilting her head.
“The one,” Lorraine-Cheshire nodded. “I would add, ‘the only,’ but that simply isn’t true. As you all are probably quite well aware of.”
“In spades by this point,” Clara Five mumbled.
Allyson was practically glaring at the Cat, looking like she wanted very much to hit something with her mallet. “I don’t like this,” she said softly, almost menacingly. “I don’t like this at all.”
“I told you, it’s not Arcadia,” Doc Nine said soothingly. “I somehow think this place is a little less threatening.”
“Arcadia?” Lorraine-Cheshire got to her paws, looking curious. “Are you that new boy Clockwork then?”
Doc Nine looked up, expression halfway between confusion and annoyance. “What?”
“They don’t seem to recognize the familiar nicknames,” New Clara said. “And there seems to be just a few too many of them – and despite that, they also seem to be missing people. I think we may be dealing with a different group altogether.”
“They’ve got Victor with them,” Lorraine-Cheshire pointed out, waving a paw in his direction.
“Yes, but he’s dressed different,” New Clara said, studying Victor’s suit. Victor started reaching for his tie again. “I don’t think he’s ever dressed so – modern?”
“Maybe it’s that other Victor we’ve heard about?”
“Other?” Victor said, eyes wide.
“Look, the only reason we’re here is because our best friends are in terrible danger,” Doc Seven said, waving a hand. “So could you please explain, as clearly as possible--”
“That’s a laugh, coming from you,” Jennifer Seven said.
“Shut up – just where, exactly, are we?”
“Well, you’re in Wonderland – one of them, anyway,” New Clara said, fiddling with her skirts a bit. “The one that’s a mix between Wonderland proper and Hill Valley. Everyone you might know is a character from Wonderland here. I’m Clara Alice, for example, and Lorraine you’ve guessed--”
“A pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Lorraine-Cheshire said, with a hint of a purr. “Even if I do think we’ve met before, in a sense.”
“Are we here?” Doc One asked, curious despite himself.
“Well, of course! You’re the Hatter!”
“And a right good one, in my opinion,” Clara Alice nodded.
A sudden cold chill snaked its way down Doc Six’s spine. “Great Scott – that means Marty is here too, isn’t he?”
“Well, yes. He’s the White Rabbit,” Clara Alice confirmed. A look of concern crossed her face. “You did just mention your best friends are in terrible danger – has something happened to Marty?”
“To all of them,” Doc Four confirmed, looking mildly sick. “A certain psychopath has managed to build himself a dimension-jumping machine and has kidnapped all our Martys to – to–”
“Don’t say it,” Josephine said, putting her arm around him.
“You probably get the picture anyway,” Mystie nodded. “We’ve been tracking him for a while, across ten dimensions. Eleven, now that we’re here.”
“. . .Whyever would he want to come to Wonderland?”
“Accident,” Doc Ten said. “He crash-landed here after one of his accomplices accidentally disabled the hover conversion on his train. We’re trying to figure out where they’ve gone from here.” He grimaced. “And now that you’ve mentioned there’s another Marty here, I think it’s imperative that we find out where they’ve gone fast.”
“I can agree with that,” Lorraine-Cheshire said, her grin lessening a bit. “Hatter will go mad if anything happens to the boy. Not that he isn’t quite mad already, but it’s the sense of the word that matters.”
“Exactly,” Clara Alice said, grimacing. “Do you have any idea where they’ve gone to?”
“We’re thinking they followed this path,” Fred said, pointing along the dirt road. “Though if this is Wonderland, I’m guessing it could lead anywhere at all?”
“Depends on how you walk it.” Clara Alice sighed. “Oh, I hate doing this, but it might be our best chance of finding your friends and their kidnappers. I’m certain she’ll at least be able to track down our Marty so you can save him.”
“What’s your plan, then?” Gypsy asked.
“We go to Heart Palace,” Clara Alice said, her voice rather resigned. “And ask the Queen.”
“Oh, she’ll just order all our heads cut off as usual,” Lorraine-Cheshire complained. “Do you really think she’ll help?”
“Well, she might be at least a bit interested in keeping her primary messenger safely in her service. And it’s the only place I know of with the portals back to the other worlds, so we might be able to get in touch with Vicky. She’ll have an interest in helping, I’m sure.”
“Who is this Vicky you keep mentioning?” Doc Eight demanded.
“It’s hard to explain – perhaps if we find Hatter, he’ll be able to do a better job of it. At any rate, I truly believe Heart Palace is your best bet for finding assistance. And Lorraine and I know the way.”
“If you’re really in such trouble, it would be remiss of us not to help,” Lorraine-Cheshire agreed, jumping down from the branch and sitting in front of them, tail twitching. “I’ll even do my best to not be quite so cryptic.”
The group considered it for a moment. “It would be stupid not to take assistance so freely offered,” Doc One finally said. “Especially if it means finally getting the Martys free.”
“Nothing’s going to attack us?” Allyson demanded. “This isn’t a place where, if I decide it’s better to make a break for it, it’s not going to try and eat me?”
“Certainly not,” Clara Alice frowned. “The roses are awful teases, and there’s a good chance of getting lost if you’re not careful, but we’re nothing like that American McGee’s Wonderland.”
“Allyson, really, it’s okay,” Doc Nine said, laying a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Trust the man who spent twenty years in that hellhole. This isn’t the same place.”
“It certainly doesn’t feel quite the same to me,” Victor confirmed. Fred nodded along.
Slowly, Allyson’s face softened. “So – we finally found it?” she whispered. “This really is Wonderland?”
“One of them,” Clara Alice nodded. “I must ask you about your strange antipathy toward believing that before.”
“We’ll try and explain a little about where we’re all from on the way,” Doc Six said, the tentacles cheeping. “For now, lead on, Clara Alice.”